i was a small scared skinny willow of a boy, frightened of the future and of my future. and to top it all off, i had to go to college now. Berkeley was the first time i had ever been away from home. why did i have to be so smart? i took the mittens my mom knit me and tried to unknit them into a security blanket, but my hands were too slight. i fit a nut in my jowl instead.
i didn't know where to go, what to do, or who to be with. i wandered around hardscrabble streets and harder tests taken coldly in auditoriums. in college, the arbitrariness of everything just gets magnified to a power so unimaginable the magnifying glass becomes your iris.
finally i settled on the only thing i ever knew how to do: type my feelings. but i didn't just want to join the school paper, i wanted to be cool finally, to taste the good life, to slough off my senior persona, to eat strawberries with the high-school gymnasts. i wanted to do my own naughty webcomic. but i hadn't drawn seriously since kindergarten. poetry? when has poetry ever been cool? even when poetry WAS cool back in the Victorian day it was never cool.
okay, let's write for real again, which of course i did with scratchy scribbles on a Starbucks napkin cos i read or wrote somewhere that's what all the celebrated Beat authors who were beaten on the streets did. and beaten in their respective local dirty publishing houses with the dirty floors and dark-grey smokestacks.
i managed my first non-humorous poem in thirteen years, the age of my permanent inner child. a couple of stanzas and a quote from my favorite all-time thinker, a quote i've completely forgotten about now. no idea who this person is anymore.
i was calling myself Toilet and spreading my shit all around town. to anyone and everyone who would buy it. or publish it and slip it under toilets. this was the last decade before everything went free, unsold, unbought, and unheard-of again, so ink was at a premium. less tattoos of the revolution were being offered in those days in favor of print. i was just about to staplegun my three-page skatepunker zine to a dark-brown telephone pole when i got the call.
the old man with no accent at the shoppe hung up on me which i took as a sign. it'd get published now, right? i celebrated by using my dad's polka-dot umbrella for the first time. it was so damn grand big! i got swallowed up by it when i pulled it out. but it was raining cats, dogs, and squirrels so i knew i had to get out there for the artistic atmosphere and musty mist smell. you can't write what you don't soak. i visited the nice corner bistro i spotted when my eyes were cornered by drink on that first day, Island Taco. my tongue had wanted to savor that Enchilada Platter but my wallet closed its sewed mouth. 50 FUCKING DOLLARS FOR TWO ENCHILADAS!!? "are you sure you don't mean 50 pesos?" i implored the girl at the horchata stand. she blew so much smoke in my face it became a bubble. next time i won't talk with first-time people when i'm chewing gum, it's a nasty defense mechanism of mine i need to relent.
ee cummings: i know why you're here, why you frequent. i know why you came out here in the rain. you're an artist.
me: i have to go poo-poo. man, i can't open this swinging door with the circular window at the top! i need the key to the bathroom!
ee cummings: just push the door, fellow traveler mate. it requires no strength at all. always unlocked to the public. we must all be jerkmates to survive in this world, never wash your hands, makes the food taste better.
me: this entire world has been blaming the wrong people this whole time all the while.
ee: don't call yourself Toilet, you'll never sell. it's not about selling out, it's about self-worth. i know you feel down now, but you're only gonna feel downer later so why not be happy now? how about Toilu, but make it toilu, like a sophisticated smelly French perfume parfum of water and eaters.
i noticed my umbrella was turned out outside by the front door palm stoop and it caught the large gale of wind from the storm and sailed out to the mint sea. the next time i visited Island Taco i had taken my mentor's advice but he was nowhere to be seen. then he came in with the wind in a huge rush of air. floating on my umbrella. worst wind Island Taco had ever experienced according to the gauges.
ee: i'm Mary Poppins, bitch. you'll find out soon.
me: i like the Late '90s but i am so excited for the Millennian! where did you come from?
ee: art's dead. except for island caves slowly dying. a neighboring island that houses another Island Taco. do you like my work?
me: yes. but i can't download it at my dorm cos i start to type it in the window and it shuts down the cum porn site.
ee: they call this city the Windiest City In The World, right? but it's not. it's the Beans Capital of the World.
me: why are you telling me all this? and do you want to buy a Cubs cap?
ee: cos you gotta be different. the people who patronage this place have a lot of customs, they're customers. habitue emptor. look at this menu. see all the fine print? can't read a thing. especially the exorbitant prices. that's how you have to write poetry. with small letters. all lowercase, make the reader feel intimate with you, like it's only you the writer and the reader sharing this screed or song, together, an exclusive club of two. that's how you win over audiences, by being real. that one reader is the only reader you'll ever have...
i sat with his wisdom as i walked home alone. with him under the umbrella with me.
ee: this is why your umbrella was so big, it was always meant to house two. a partner for life. got any food at home? let go of the umbrella. let it fly away, get soaked by the rain, you have to feel this.
me: are you sure?
but ee was gone. but i still smelled his breath in the crisp air. his breath smelt of nuts, black olives, and bacon.
i returned home wet and worried to my dorm, to the roommate i despised, and hid my head under the crossstitch covers, hitting said head on my Dead Milkmen old-time clock radio. that's when i started sneezing. i continued to sneeze...forever...for the rest of my life i kept sneezing. till i died. this made me never forgot my master, my mentor, my muse father and only friend ee cummings again...
happy weekend, my babies. Nixon would be rolling in his grave now...